Law and Redemptive Narrative: Genesis as a Cultural Resource in the Twenty-First Century

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Abstract: This paper addresses whether the book of Genesis can serve as a cultural re­source informing law and politics in the twenty-first century, and if so, how? First, the book of Genesis is considered as a book of origins and then as a book of beginnings. With this distinction in mind, the paper then discusses and notes the limitations of three con­temporary thinkers—Alan Dershowitz, Alain Supiot, and H. Patrick Glenn—who deal with how Genesis speaks to contemporary law, its principles and origins. An alterna­tive approach is presented that focuses on the implications of Genesis as the beginning of an extended narrative that suggests a “redemptive imperative”—a transformative, ideal-seeking rule for the making and interpreting of law. The thesis developed in the paper is that Genesis is indeed a valuable resource, but only if approached as a model for human life that is found in a narrative driven by a search for an ideal, and perhaps even the ideal.

Biography: Tsvi Blanchard teaches Jewish law at Fordham Law School and is Meyer Gluck Visiting Professor at the faculty of law at Humboldt University in Berlin. Blanchard is a Director of Organizational Development at Clal-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. In addition to being an ordained Orthodox rabbi, he holds Ph.D.s in Psychology and Philosophy. He has been a professor of philosophy, director of the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago, and a practicing clinical and organizational psychologist. He has taught at Washington, Northwestern and Loyola Universities, as well as the Drisha Institute for Women, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Wexner Heritage Foundation. A 2003 Reisman Award winner for “Article of the Year” (Journal of Jewish Communal Service), he is the co-author of Embracing Life & Facing Death: A Jewish Guide to Palliative Care (CLAL, 2003). Blanchard‘s stories and parables have been widely anthologized. Publications include “How Stories Heal,” “Joining Heaven and Earth,” and “After Eden: The Search for the Holy in a Consumer Society.”

Volume 4, Number 3 (Summer 2009) pp. 266–285